(there’s spoilers after the “Read More” tag!)
I have a pretty fierce relationship with television. I was always happiest as a young girl when I was plopped in front of the television; my strongest early childhood memories are of commercials and cartoons. When I grew up a bit, I realized I was trying to finding meaning and answers within the world and TV was a pretty big help with trying to understand myself and everything around me. I think I can get “professional TV nerd” printed on any future business cards.
Last night I was watching Beverly Hills 90210, a past time I try to hide from my loved ones. My last roommate would leave the room whenever I sat down to indulge in some high school soap. I realized I shouldn’t hide my love for the classic show, because I could identify myself within the characters, and I think that is justification for enjoying some cheese. Anyway, my cosmic kinship with the show began with the penultimate episode of the first season, “Spring Dance”, where the spring dance (of course) is the biggest event of the year, and each character starts to slowly lose themselves in its hair-sprayed mayhem.
In high school, I was definitely no Kelly Taylor and I only looked like Brenda Walsh. I had a bunch of guy friends, but no boyfriend, and this really plagued me during dance season. I rolled my eyes at the “spring flings” in my first two years because they were child’s play compared to the junior and senior proms to come. When my senior prom came around, I was totally and completely an Andrea, heartbroken by my main man’s interest in the most beautiful elite of the school, and staying home on prom night to find solace in the campy horror films I was so sure defined my situation.
In the episode, Andrea is heartbroken to learn her Perfect Boy Crush, Brandon Walsh, will be going to the spring dance with Perfect Blonde Candy, Kelly Taylor, instead of partaking in their usual horror movie marathon- the perfect activity for when you’re wanting to take the “less” out of “dateless.” Andrea spends the night captivated with the slasher prom flick, before realizing she could be the perfect embodiment of the Scorned Girl With Chainsaw character.
Not only did I share many of Andrea’s qualities, I actively scorned prom night because I was dateless. For some reason, I absolutely refused to go without a shiny-male-Dylan McKay type. Forget your friends, they didn’t fit my perfect prom aesthetic shaped by one too many viewings of Pretty in Pink. I don’t remember what I did on senior prom night, but I know I spent the night sulking that I’d never find my Dylan or even my David Silver.
At the end of the episode, Andrea comes to her senses and decides to go to the dance, because you can have a good time without a man or a chainsaw! I never had the sense to ignore all of the prom clichés that are ingrained into you from day one, from shows like this one. I only thought your high school experience could be adequate if you had problems like Brenda and Kelly’s same dress debate, or if you suppressed your feelings on prom night through a flask like Steve Sanders did in this episode.
The episode ends with the superior song of friendship; the gang comes to the conclusion that they had treated each other terribly in the name of the spring dance. I’m glad for this conclusion- it promotes an act of normalcy in the middle of the high school tornado. I always got pretty lost in the midst of what was considered important in high school. My biggest struggle was pretending not to care about fitting within the puzzle, but I always fell victim in the end. If I had seen this show back then, I would’ve hated my obviously close identification with Andrea, but a few years later, I wish there were more characters like her on TV today. I think this is why Barb from Stranger Things has become so popular. It’s always comforting to identify parts of ourselves among the Nancy Wheelers and Kelly Taylors of the world.
(picture from here)